Monday, 28 February 2011

PIA Dispatch - Monday, February 28, 2011

Aquino lauds YesPinoy Foundation's 'Para Paaralan' launch

President Benigno S. Aquino III lauded the formal launch of YesPinoy Foundation’s “Para Paaralan” program that aims to provide basic education services to the disadvantaged Filipino youth and students through strategic public-private partnerships, saying the project embodies the true meaning of volunteerism that should be emulated by today’s youth.

In his speech keynoting the program’s launching ceremony held at the NBC Tent in Taguig City on Sunday, the President thanked YPF’s founding chair Jose Sixto “Dingdong” Dantes III for heeding his administration’s call to join the battle against poverty.

“When it comes to volunteerism, helping others and, not to mention, good looks, the name Dingdong easily comes to one’s mind”, the President said.

“He [Dingdong] could have just dedicated his time at being an actor and just face the camera the whole day but he is with us today, choosing to join our fight against poverty”, he added.

“I therefore offer my heartfelt thanks to our friend Dingdong Dantes and the hardworking youth who form the YesPinoy Foundation for the important role they play in our society”, the President said.

YesPinoy is a Foundation that provides educational scholarships to young people and inculcates the value of helping others realize their dreams and ambitions. It aims to help build a new generation of globally-competitive Filipinos with compassion for the welfare of his fellowmen, especially those men and women who render selfless public service.

Yes Pinoy Foundation aims to contribute in bridging the education gaps through its flagship project Para Paaralan, a roving bus caravan designed to reach disadvantaged youth and students located in the Department of Education-marked "red" and "black" areas around the country.

With performing arts and digital technologies as main tools of instruction, Para Paaralan is made possible through the strategic participation of LGUs, volunteer youth groups and artists/celebrities, partners from the private sector, and our colleagues in the socio-civic sector. (PCOO)

Education reforms key to winning battle against poverty - Aquino

The implementation of the government’s education reform agenda would be the key in winning the battle against poverty, President Benigno S. Aquino III said.

In his speech keynoting the launching ceremony of the YesPinoy Foundation’s “Para Paaralan” project at the NBC Tent in Taguig City on Sunday, the President said these reforms include the revision of the basic education curriculum or the Enhanced K+12 Basic Education Program, and increasing the Department of Education’s budget to more than P200-billion to build more classrooms and hire more teachers.

“Sa tulong ni (DepED) Kalihim Armin Luistro, isinusulong na natin ang ating education reform agenda. Itutulak na natin ang pagrebisa sa basic education curriculum o ang tinatawag nating Enhanced K+12 Basic Education Program,” the President said.

“Ang karagdagang karunungan na kanilang matututuhan ang siyang susi upang kahit high school lang ang kanilang matapos, may kakayahan pa rin silang makakuha ng disenteng trabaho,” he added.

“Edukasyon ang maglulunsad ng tagumpay ng ating mga kabataan; ito rin ang magpapataas at magpapanatili sa antas ng kakayahan ng ating mamamayan”, he said.

The President further stressed that with the DepED’s increase in budget, more classrooms can be built and more teachers can be hired.

The K+12 program refers to the Kindergarten, plus 6 years in elementary education from Grade I-VI for children 6 to 11 years old; plus 4 years Junior High School Secondary or Grade VII-X for 12-15 years old; and an additional two years Senior High School or Grade XI-XII.

The enhanced K+12 Basic Education Program aims to give every student an opportunity to receive quality education based on an enhanced and decongested curriculum and seeks to change public perception that high school education is just a preparation for college. (PCOO)

National Food Authority to be reorganized into National Food Corporation

The Aquino government wants to reorganize the heavily indebted National Food Authority in order to arrest the agency’s ballooning debt, improve the delivery of services and to fast track the administration’s goal of lowering rice importation in order for the country to be rice sufficient in two years.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Bill reorganizing the NFA was discussed during President Benigno S. Aquino III’s first Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council meeting in Malacañang on Monday.

The LEDAC was created through Republic Act 7640 approved by then President Fidel V. Ramos on December 9, 1992 which mandated that LEDAC shall serve as a consultative and advisory body to the President as the head of the national economic and planning agency for further consultations and advice on certain programs and policies essential to the realization of the goals of the national economy.

The President discussed why the NFA needed to be reformed and give way to a National Food Corporation (NFC), primarily mandated to maintain and manage a national strategic and government rice buffer stock by July of each year, Lacierda said.

The NFC, Lacierda added, will not take over NFA’s debts and obligations pegged at P161-billion (down from P177-billion) and would start on “a clean slate basis.”

“All assets and liabilities of NFA not transferred shall be retained and administered, disposed of and liquidated by the NFA,” Lacierda said.

Together with the creation of the NFC, Lacierda said, the Bill would also propose increasing the penalties of rice smuggling “which shall be considered as economic sabotage and deem the offense as non-bailable.”

Aside from the NFC, a Food Development and Regulatory Administration (FDRA) would be created to “carry out regulatory, scientific and developmental functions for strengthening the efficiency of the food supply chain in order to increase the value of the farmers’ produce as a component of food products for export.” (PCOO)

23 proposed priority measures gains 'broad consensus' at LEDAC meeting

Discussions went on smoothly for the majority of the 23 priority bills that were tackled during the first meeting of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) at the Palace, Monday.

In a press briefing at the Conference Room of the Heroes Hall, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that majority of the 23 proposed priority measures gained a “broad consensus” among the members of the LEDAC noting that not much controversy was raised during the discussions.

Among the priority bills discussed include the proposed creation of Department of Housing and Urban Development, the amendments to the National Health Insurance Act, the postponement of elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the proposed reorganization of the National Food Authority (NFA), among others.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. presented the framework as well as the features of the 23 items in the proposed legislative agenda.

After the discussion on the priority bills, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Cayetano Paderanga Jr. presented the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016.

Created in 1992, the LEDAC has as regular members the President as chairman, the Vice President, the Senate President, the House Speaker, seven Cabinet members, three senators, three House members, and one representative each from the local government, the youth, and the private sector.

Among those present in the LEDAC meeting were Senator Ralph Recto, Senator Franklin Drilon, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Vicente “Tito" Sotto III.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, House appropriations committee chairman Joseph Emilio Abaya, and Representative Hermilando Mandanas also attended the meeting.

The members of the Cabinet present were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

Also in attendance were presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. (PCOO)

Aquino thanks Congress for supporting administration's priority bills

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday thanked leaders of both Houses of Congress for their full support to the 23 priority bills he submitted at the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting.

In a press briefing following the five-hour meeting, the President was happy that most of the proposed priority bills have been filed in both chambers of Congress.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said 10 of the President’s priority measures are already in various stages of discussion.

“At least half of the (listed priority) measures will be finished before the first session ends in May,” Belmonte said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, for his part, assured that the legislative measures will be tackled in the Senate “as a matter of duty.”

The President, who presided over the first-ever LEDAC meeting since assuming office June last year, presented the 23 bills he wanted to be given priority.

“We look forward to a responsive collaboration…toward a common legislative agenda," the President said in his opening speech.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa presented the framework as well as the features of the 23 items in the proposed legislative agenda.

Socio-Economic and Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga presented the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016. It’s discussion however was deferred since it was agreed more time is needed to discuss the blueprint of the Aquino Administration’s development agenda.

Created in 1992, the LEDAC has as regular members the President as chairman, the Vice President, the Senate President, the House Speaker, seven Cabinet members, three senators, three House members, and one representative each from the local government, the youth, and the private sector.

It serves to help the President integrate his legislative agenda with the national development plan, among others.

Among those present in the meeting were Enrile, Senators Ralph Recto, Franklin Drilon, Jinggoy Estrada and Vicente “Tito" Sotto III.

Belmonte, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III, House appropriations committee chairman Joseph Emilio Abaya, and Rep Hermilando Mandanas were also present.

Members of the Cabinet in attendance were Ochoa, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Communications Operations head Herminio Coloma and Paderanga.

Also present were Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Secretary Ricky Carandang and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. (PCOO)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

PIA Dispatch - Sunday, February 27, 2011

Esposo cites 'Hand of the Almighty' in Aquino's rise to power on the 25th anniversary of the People Power

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s rise to power in July 2010 must have been God’s handiwork as the country celebrated its 25th People Power Revolution at EDSA, according to newspaper columnist William “Billy” Esposo at the People Power Awards ceremonies held at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall in Malacanang Saturday (Feb. 26).

Esposo was one of five awardees presented with the Legion of Honor with the rank of Chief Commander. The four others were Fr. James Reuter (SJ), Napoleon Rama and, posthumously, Teodoro Benigno and US Rep. Stephen Solarz. Publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces was, likewise, posthumously presented the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo.

“How come, that at this time when we’re marking the 25th anniversary of People Power, the only son of the twin inspiration of People Power – Ninoy and Cory Aquino – is now sitting as president of our country? Who would be better tasked to see that People Power achieves it full bloom for our nation,” Esposo said in his reaction after receiving the Legion of Honor award from President Aquino.

His reaction was also on behalf of living awardees Napoleon Rama and Fr. James Reuter, whom Esposo fondly described as already in the “pre-departure area of life,” just as the other awardees Chino Roces, Teddy Benigno and US Rep. Stephen Solarz, were “very dead,” which elicited loud laughter from the audience composed of the diplomatic community, business leaders, civil society and the families of the six awardees.

He said the common denominator among Fr. Reuter, Rama, himself and the three posthumous awardees namely Chino Roces, Teddy Benigno and US Congressman Stephen Solarz is that “in our own little way, we were among those who tried to provide a light to a darkened period in Philippine history.”

Esposo said ignorance, the fear to know the unpalatable and public apathy all formed the conditions which perpetuated tyranny. “We tried, in our own little way, to provide the circle around us the light to see what is truly happening and where the evil acts of those in power then will eventually bring us,” Esposo said.

He then said the success of the great historic development of 1986 in EDSA was attained “because of the intervention of the Hand of the Almighty. We all faced seemingly insurmountable odds which were humanly impossible to conquer and we prefer to credit not ourselves but the Almighty. Our 1986 adventure with People Power could have turned into our worst fears and nightmare but thank God that it didn’t,” the chair wrecker said.

“Looking at what has been happening in the Middle East, where people are also trying to stage their own adventure with People Power, we doubly appreciate how things turned out in our country in 1986,” he added

He said the Hand of the Almighty had also arranged this confluence of events to instill a realization in us Filipinos who provided the world with this romantic inspiration called People Power.

And, he stressed that as the Philippines is celebrating its 25th anniversary of People Power, “this demonstration of People Power inspiration happens in the most unlikely region in the world where one would expect it to flourish.”

”How come that at this time we’re marking the 25th anniversary of People Power, the only son of the twin inspiration of People Power – Ninoy and Cory Aquino – is now sitting as president of our country? Who would be better tasked to see that People Power achieves it full bloom for our nation,” he asked.

Then he quipped: “Could this be what Germany’s Otto Von Bismarck described as one of those instances when God is once again marching through history? Don’t you hear the footsteps of God in this recent uncanny confluence of events?”

Esposo said that “if indeed these are the footsteps of God we are hearing marching through history; surely it is not to give us Filipinos a pat in the back. The world stopped to give us a pat in the back when we ousted a dictator 25 years ago in 1986. However, there are many things that have happened in our country as well as many things that have not happened in our country which cannot entitle us to a pat in the back at this time.”

He said the 25th anniversary of People Power should prod Filipinos to ponder that the final task is that of uplifting the lives of all other Filipinos by addressing information, education and opportunity gaps that create the dangerous wealth gap in our country. We have to repair our damaged culture and along with it, erase our culture of corruption,” he stressed.

He said the challenge is to improve the standard of living of the bottom 30 percent of society, the impoverished 4 million Filipino souls who can turn this country into endless cycles of strife and carnage, if their plight remains unaddressed.”

It is said that only the poor can help themselves---but not alone. This is the job for People Power. Filipinos must now be the light to fellow Filipinos wallowing in darkness,” Esposo said. (PCOO)

Development partners pleased with Aquino's reform programs

Over 200 foreign donors, creditors, civic societies and the academe that attended the whole-day Philippine Development Forum at the Sofitel on Saturday expressed satisfaction at the economic and social reforms initiated by the Aquino administration since it assumed office in July 2010.

Several members of the Aquino Cabinet participated actively in the discussions, which World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman described as open, candid and had a lot of shared optimism and trust towards President Aquino’s Social Contract with the Filipino People, the basis for the Philippine Development Program for 2011-2016.

The forum was chaired by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and co-chaired by World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman. Among the Aquino Cabinet members present were: Acting Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Secretary Ging Deles and Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares.

In the wrap-up of the full-day forum, Hofman said the participants shared a lot of optimism, openness and trust for the Aquino administration’s handling of the economy. He noted that with effective implementation of the plan and adequate support, the Philippine government can realize its goal of eradicating poverty through sustained high levels of growth.

He said the development partners of the Philippines welcome the President’s social contract with the Filipino people saying the 16 points outlined in the contract “go to the heart of the many development challenges that Filipinos confront today.” The partners also congratulate the government for some very positive and early reforms that seek to deliver this social contract.

The partners also recognize the importance of the forum as the framework that would allow them to align their support programs with the Philippine program with particular emphasis on strengthening the capacity to implement the program in the local governments through performance-based grants to make budgeting open, transparent and consultative.

They also commended the Philippine legislature for passing a quality 2011 budget and the timely release, which Hofman said “sends an unambiguous signal that this government and legislature are fiscally responsible, transparent and performance-oriented.”

Hofman said development partners laud the government’s strong growth posted last year, the timely passage of the first budget of the new administration and the priority given to the conditional cash transfer program and household targeting systems.

Civil society organizations acknowledged the greater space for involvement as they stressed the need to focus on asset reform, better coordination among anti-corruption agencies, greater access to information and development of the poorest areas of Mindanao.

The foreign development partners welcomed the resumption of peace negotiations and expressed support for the peace process.

The human development cluster of the forum emphasized the need to expand the social safety nets that have proven effective such as CCT, fast tracking the public health insurance program for the poor and improved targeting of public expenditures. For the longer term, the partners cited the need to strengthen disaster risk and climate change management. The partners noted the slow progress in attaining some of the Millennium Development Goals such as universal primary education, improving maternal health and combating pandemic diseases, particularly HIV.

The development partners also welcomed the government’s public private partnership (PPP) agenda as an effective means to provide urgently needed infrastructure and pledged their support to strengthen the government’s capacity to promote, develop and manage PPP.

To mobilize financial resources from the private sector and to attract more investments to the Philippines, the development partners said it is essential that the business environment remains substantially improved and the strong commitment shown in this regard is translated into concrete measures that are steadily implemented on the ground. (PCOO)

Aquino tells Phl development partners: 'This is a government that works & works with you'

Addressing over 200 international and local development partners, President Benigno S. Aquino III confidently said that “this is a government that works well and is willing to work with you” in ensuring that the benefits of prosperity will be felt by the greater majority of our citizens and not just by a few.

The Philippine Development Forum, the first organized in this administration, is chaired by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and co chaired by World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman. It was attended by multilateral funding agencies, foreign donors, civil society, non government organizations, the diplomatic and business communities and the academe.

The President said the forum “comes at the right time because our nation has always aspired for an economy where the growth powered by private enterprise impacts on a larger number of people.”

He noted the “upsurge of optimism in the Philippine economy” since the start of his administration, adding that “in a short span of time we are fulfilling our promise to curb corruption and reduce poverty.”

“We did not need a miracle to make it happen. We are simply doing things right,” he continued.

He said his administration took care of spending money prudently to where it could create more impact and benefit, reducing opportunities for corruption, using local ingenuity and creativity and reducing the perks and compensations of government owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions basing the compensation on their accomplishments.

In January 2011, the GOCCs and GFIs remitted over P29 billion to the national treasury, almost triple the amount in the previous years’ delivery.

For example, he cited stopping overpriced contracts of the Department of Public Works and Highways amounting to P1 billion that were renegotiated and at least some P300 million in savings resulted from a more transparent and truly competitive process in the bidding.

He also mentioned how tapping local innovations such as coco coir for slope protection generated savings of some P2.2 billon.

He said government’s zero-based budgeting approach ensured the efficient use of public resources, as budget items were now evaluated in order to determine the relevance, effectiveness and vulnerability to leakages. Programs that were not delivering were terminated while those that were working enjoyed even more funding.

The President said his government has increased spending on social safety net programs such as the conditional cash transfer and the expanded Philhealth program for immediate, direct and substantial benefits. Beneficiaries to the CCT program will be increased from the current 1 million to 2.3 million by the end of 2011, he said.

The government also affirmed its commitment to basic education by giving it the biggest budget in a decade so that resources will be given to areas students need the most such as in building classrooms and more importantly hiring new teachers.

The Chief Executive said convergence is the key development strategy where efforts and resources will be collaborated for social protection, poverty reduction, health care, education and development of rural economies to ensure maximization of resources for greater impact.

The collaboration will also entail encouraging communities to participate actively in barangay development, as done in the KALAHI CIDDS areas to ensure that agencies pour their resources into communities that need them the most.

“Through our public private partnership initiatives we are also optimistic about enticing investors to enter into a fair, mutually beneficial and productive partnership with the government to build infrastructure, undertake other economic activities in order to generate more employment,” he said. (PCOO)

President Aquino leads consultation with Congress

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. is set to present 23 proposed legislations the administration wants Congress to prioritize when President Benigno Aquino III convenes on Monday for the first time the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Six more priority bills were added to the previous 17 initially lined up by Cabinet members to include the proposed anti-trust law, protection and security to whistle-blowers, amendments to the Witness Protection Program, creation of a water regulatory body, government procurement reforms, and defining the powers and functions of the Department of National Defense.

According to Ochoa, the priority bills reflect the Aquino Administration's 16-point agenda for human development, infrastructure development, economic development, sovereignty and security and good governance, as well as the targets under the integrated Medium-Term Development Plan.

The list of administration-backed proposals also includes commitments of the President in his first State of the Nation Address in July last year, such as giving flesh to the constitutional provisions that prohibit monopolies and penalizing anti-competitive deals, strengthening the law on witness protection and providing security and benefits to whistle-blowers.

“All the 23 proposals went through benchmarking, goal-setting, and prioritization process during various Cabinet workshops and the succeeding meetings of the Cabinet Clusters,” Ochoa said.

“In determining the measures to be included in our priorities, we reckoned with four parameters: people, resources, legal basis and political objectives,” he added. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Saturday, February 26, 2011

‘Ondoy’ hero honored at EDSA rites

President Benigno S. Aquino III paid tribute to the extra-ordinary heroism and bravery of an 18-year old construction worker in Quezon City, who gave up his life in order to save others in distress during the height of tropical storm Ondoy’s onslaught in 2009, by awarding him posthumously for his sacrifice.

The President led the awarding of a special recognition award to Muelmar “Toto” Magallanes “for having heroically and selflessly displayed his love for his fellowmen by saving the lives of over 30 people from drowning during the wrath of Tropical Storm Ondoy on September 26, 2009.”

The awarding was held at the People Power Monument along Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue during the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution Friday afternoon.

Magallanes, a resident of Barangay Bagong Silangan, was able to save seven families and 18 children who were trapped on their rooftops after rains spawned by Ondoy flooded his community.

But because of extreme exhaustion, Magallanes was carried away by strong currents. His body was found the following day covered in thick mud.

A P50,000 check from the Spirit of EDSA Foundation led by it chair Christopher Carrion was also given to the family of Magallanes represented by his mother. (PCOO)

Aquino lauds ‘salubong’ re-enactment at EDSA rites

President Benigno S. Aquino III lauded the re-enactment of the “salubong” between military and civilian forces during the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of EDSA People Power on Friday afternoon. He noted that it was “a very good tool for remembering EDSA 1986” as it provides the younger generation with a glimpse of what happened during the people power revolution then.

The pivotal moment when military forces met with its civilian counterpart to join forces and oust a dictator during that fateful day along EDSA in 1986 was played out once again in the “salubong” segment of Friday’s festivities.

The military contingent represented by former President Fidel Ramos and composed of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, members of the Philippine National Police and two armored personnel carriers patiently awaited their cue at the Camp Aguinaldo portion of the highway.

Meanwhile, the civilian contingent composed of civic leaders and proponents of the first EDSA People Power led by former Senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino were likewise waiting for the go-signal at the EDSA shrine.

At the given time, the two forces began their march towards the nearby People Power Monument.

Loud cheers and applause greeted the two contingents as they met at the stage fronting the monument with Ramos and Aquino re-enacting their embrace, which in 1986 meant they had joined forces to topple a regime.

“Kaya ang salubungang ito ay isa ring makabuluhang pagtatagpo ng nakaraang henerasyon ng EDSA at ng henerasyon ngayon,” President Aquino said.

He added that with this re-enactment, he hoped the younger generation will have an idea of the sacrifice their elders gave for their freedom.

“Maunawaan at mapangalagaan sana ng ating mga kabataan ang kahalagahan ng mga naging sakripisyo natin noong EDSA,” the President said.

“Dahil sa paglaban natin sa kamay na bakal, malaya tayong nakakapagpahayag ngayon ng ating saloobin; nakakapagtipon nang walang banta o panganib na madakip; at may media tayong nag-uulat sa bayan ng mga nangyayari sa ating lipunan,” he added.

He further pointed out that despite the current controversy hounding the military, this re-enactment shows to the people the unwavering dedication of the Filipino soldier to serve the people.

It, the President said, shows that the Filipino soldier and the military will not think twice to turn their backs against any leader who would put the people in harm’s way.

“Sa salubungang ito, nasaksihan natin kung paano hindi magdadalawang-isip na talikuran ng militar ang pinuno nilang idadamay ang inosenteng sibilyan para sa kapangyarihan,” the President said. (PCOO)

Aquino directs DOLE to look into concerns of Filipino domestic helpers Hong Kong

President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to look into the complaints of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong that some employment agencies still charge placement fees for the deployment of household helpers abroad.

The President issued the directive during his teleconference with Maritess Elvinia, a household helper in Hong Kong, on Friday at the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority as part of the 25th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

An existing policy against charging placement fees for the deployment of household workers abroad is absolute, and recruiters cannot charge before deployment and then for reimbursement later.

In December 2006, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration issued a new set of policies, which among others prohibited placement fees in the deployment of household helpers. The set of policies, which also raised the minimum monthly salary from $200 to $400, seeks to upgrade the status of Filipino domestic helpers being deployed worldwide.

The President asked all those who have paid such fees to report the incident to the POEA so that the erring recruitment agencies could be reprimanded.

According to POEA rules, agencies that collect placement fees from workers despite the ban would be penalized with cancellation of license and would be asked to refund the fee collected from the worker. (PCOO)

Aquino confers awards on 6 key people who inspired EDSA revolt

President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred on Saturday morning the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo on the late Joaquin “Chino” Roces and five Legion of Honor Awards with the rank of Commander to the late Teodoro Benigno and the late US Rep. Stephen Solarz, as well as Fr. James Reuter (SJ), Napoleon Rama and Billy Esposo.

The awarding was held at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacanang as part of the weeklong celebration of the 25th anniversary of EDSA People Power Revolution.

In a speech, the President said it has recently become fashionable to point out the unfulfilled promises of EDSA with some daring to say that “maybe a one-man rule was not such a bad idea, never mind the oppression and the lack of liberties.”

“It is true that much remains to be resolved. But at the same time, who could deny what we have already achieved? Are we not better off today than we were a generation ago? Have we not finally regained the respect of the global community as a beacon of democracy? Are we not on the way to becoming a more equitable society,” he asked.

The President said he disagreed because “I do not think we would have become another Singapore had we stayed the course with Marcos. Singapore is one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia; it’s a place where poverty has become an exception, and where there is a growing room for artistic expression. This was not the case during Martial Law. During those dark years, inequality worsened and free expression was stifled. We were far from becoming another Singapore. Were it not for EDSA, we probably could have become another Libya,” he said.

He challenged his critics to talk to people who were there during the dark days. “Just ask Fr. James Reuter, who was tried for 12 days in Camp Aguinaldo for editing and publishing The Communicator,” a four-page paper on Martial Law and who subsequently was put under house arrest for two years.

“Ask Tito Nap Rama (journalist and floor leader of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, who shared a prison cell with my father, his crime, for sponsoring the “Ban Marcos” Resolution, which would have prevented the Marcoses from running for the top post under a new Constitution,” he added.

“Ask our favorite chair wrecker, Billy Esposo, who also put up a Cory Media Bureau that battled against media monopoly. Or the families of the late Chino Roces, Teddy Benigno and Representative Solarz,” continued the President.

“Chino Roces, who was my father’s mentor in journalism, who was also detained in Fort Bonifacio during Martial Law for bravely publicizing the unsanitized truth about the Marcos regime.

“Teddy Benigno, who found it necessary, along with other foreign journalists, to establish the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, so that they could help balance the Marcos-controlled media.”

He thanked the awardees and their families for the sacrifices they undertook to restore democracy in the Philippines. “It is those sacrifices that we honor today. The revolution did not end in 1986, nor will it end after this 25th anniversary. As Senator Ted Kennedy said: ‘The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’”

He said much of what needs to be done will be difficult and will be met with some opposition. “It will not be achieved merely by marching on the streets. For example, through Executive Order 23, we imposed comprehensive restrictions on commercial logging in an effort to preserve our environment,” he added.

He said he also sought “to intervene in an unjust plea bargain in the case of Gen. Carlos Garcia, because this would have made a mockery of our justice system. All of these will be resisted by certain quarters that will be affected adversely by these actions.”

“These are the things that will eventually fulfill the promise of EDSA, and it is imperative that we, like those that flooded the streets in February 1986, persevere so that these things are achieved at the soonest time possible,” the Chief Executive added.

Among those present in the awarding ceremonies were members of the diplomatic community, the Cabinet, the families of the awardees, Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, columnist Conrad de Quiros and members of both houses of Congress. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Friday, February 25, 2011

World joins Pinoys in commemorating EDSA

The world is joining the Filipinos in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 1986 bloodless EDSA People Power Revolution that inspired other nations worldwide to uphold democracy.

In separate statements, leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Korea, Czech Republic and Republic of Chile extended their congratulations to the Filipino people for regaining their freedom through peaceful means.

German President Christian Wulff said the EDSA People Power was an inspiration for the Germans to stand up and unify for peace and freedom.

“Only a few months later, the Berlin Wall came down and we Germans were able to make our unified state a reality in peace and freedom,” Wulf said, adding that recent developments in the Arab world “demonstrate that people’s desire for freedom is universal and remains as strong as ever.”

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique lauded the Filipinos for their solidarity in achieving democracy through peaceful means.

Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the February 1986 revolution “meant a historical landmark on the road to democracy of your country and inspiration for many others.”

Korean President Lee Myung-bak said the People Power of 1986 offered hope that the vision for the development and growth of true democracy can be realized by the people in Asia despite of hardships and adversity.

“The revolution will continue to be remembered as an exemplary example for people around the world who crave freedom and democracy,” he added.

The democratic winds created by the 1986 People Power Revolution swept throughout the world: a year after the EDSA uprising, South Koreans challenged strongman former general Chun Doo-hwa which eventually led to democratic reforms; Chile’s Pinochet lost his iron grip in power in 1989.

From then on, it was a democratic domino effect: Poland’s people power revolution in turn inspired the Singing Revolutions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic States in 1989, as well as the East German democracy movement where ordinary people finally tore the Berlin Wall down; and Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution on Wenceslas Square, which all contributed to the demise of one of the two most powerful anti-democratic states in the world and returned democracy to Czechoslovakia.

Many more nations followed including those in eastern Europe, spreading to central Europe where democracy lifted the Iron Curtain and swept away the Soviet Union.

Democracy and people power inspired by the Filipinos under President Corazon Aquino indeed ended the Cold War. (PCOO)

Gov't eyes several options to move out OFWs in Libya

President Benigno S. Aquino III said the government has been exploring all possible land, sea and air options to move out Filipino professionals working in Libya as he stressed that Alert Level 3 or the voluntary repatriation, has been declared by the Philippine Embassy in Libya.

“Our duty is to protect the welfare of all Filipinos working in that country and to ensure their continued safety until they reach our country,” the President said during a media briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacañang on Thursday.

The President disclosed that a standby fund of P100 million is now available for the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Labor and Employment to be used in repatriating and evacuating Filipinos in Libya by land, sea and air. This will be augmented depending on the need for more funds, he said.

Giving the media a lesson on geography of Libya, he said the country is surrounded by neighbors that are politically unstable. These neighbors are Tunisia (the first one to have civil unrest) Egypt (which remains to be uncertain), Algeria and Chad.

He said Tripoli and Benghazi are on the opposite ends of the country with Benghazi as the traditional opposition center vis a vis Moamar Khaddafy. He said Khaddafy has been perceived as a stable regime until the bombing in the late seventies near the residence of Khaddafy.

The President explained that the Philippine Embassy is present only in the capital in Tripoli and has no consulate in Benghazi, and this is the first difficulty.

“If we move [the OFWs] out of the troubled area we can take them to Malta—the nearest point—which would require shipping them out. The ports are closed and so with the airports of Tripoli and Benghazi,” the President said.

He said he was informed that there are two planes of multinational companies with expatriates in Libya -- one is stranded in Tripoli while the other one could not land in Libya. He said unlike the situation in Egypt where the 6,000 to 7,000 Filipinos were mostly students and domestic helpers with less capability to take care of themselves, the 26,000 Filipinos in Libya were mostly professionals employed by multinational companies with their respective evacuation programs.

He said the Philippines being a member of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is being assisted by the said group in safeguarding the migrants in Libya. “We are participating in their efforts and we are asking for their assistance,” the President said adding that the first contingent of 13,000 of the 26,000 is now being processed for repatriation. (PCOO)

Aquino exhorts Filipinos to show worldwide that EDSA spirit is alive

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday called on the Filipino people to show the whole world that the EDSA spirit is very much alive.

In his message at the flag-raising ceremony at the People Power Monument along Edsa commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1986 bloodless People Power Revolution, the President stressed that people empowerment still prevails.

“Ang taumbayan ang boss at hindi iisang tao (The people are the boss and not only one person),” the President, speaking in Pilipino, said as he stressed the true essence of the EDSA spirit.

“The challenge of EDSA today is for us to show that people power is alive. It did not end in the four days of 1986,” he added.

The President stressed that the EDSA spirit means freedom from hunger and poverty and that it is, through good governance, and the eradication of corruption that the Philippines will achieve this goal.

“We are determined to give the Filipino people a brighter future. We are well on our way to achieve that goal. Let us all join hands in fulfilling this dream,” the President said.

The President noted that government is exerting all efforts to implement reforms so it can efficiently deliver the needs of the people.

The President, upon his arrival at the People Power Monument to lead in the flag-raising ceremony that kicked-off a whole day of festivities in celebration of the regained democracy through peaceful means 25 years ago, was accorded full military arrival honors. He then trooped the line and inspected the honor guards.

The President, together with former President Fidel Ramos, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Executive Secretary and EDSA People Power Commission Chair Paquito Ochoa, among others, released the Philippine flag balloons with the inscription of this year’s theme: “EDSA 25: Pilipino Ako, Ako Ang Lakas ng Pagbabago.”

Later, the President also unveiled the People Power Monument marker. (PCOO)

PH on its way towards making democracy felt by Filipinos - Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III said that the challenge of making progress irreversible and growth equitable in the country is nearly at hand once the strict implementations of reform measures and the serious campaign to rid graft and corruption in the public office is completed.

In his message during the 25th anniversary of EDSA Eucharistic celebration at the EDSA Shrine on Thursday, the President said that 25 years after the restoration of democracy through the successful people power uprising in 1986, the Philippines should be well on its way towards making democracy be truly felt by the people.

“We unfortunately are not quite there yet,” the President said noting that his administration is still confronted with backsliding and would at times take two steps forward and one step backward in dealing with the situation.

The President said that one of the significant things that his administration had successfully won was the passage of the national budget on time that occurred for the first time in 11 years, and which puts an end to the excessive bonuses of government-owned and controlled corporations.

Recently, the President issued Executive Order No. 23, declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and forming an anti-illegal task force to protect the environment for the sake of future generations.

This year, he said, the government is building new irrigation system to help farmers produce an additional 1.56 million metric tons of palay a year.

He stressed that his administration will not stop until it finally unveiled the truth behind the unjust plea bargaining agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman and former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptrollership head retired General Carlos Garcia.

He also said that in order to help common soldiers and police officers, the government will build 20,000 housing units for them.

“This year we will build 20,000 housing units for our soldiers and policemen by providing them very low housing prices which is very much lower than what they are currently paying to rent dwellings that they do not own,” the President said.

The President said that although EDSA happened 25 years ago, the uprising now in Egypt and Tunisia clearly shows that the human passion and thirst for freedom are still the shout anywhere in the world, particularly against autocratic regimes that wanted to stay in power forever.

“But compared to Egypt and Tunisia, the uprising in EDSA in 1986 had less violence,” he added. (PCOO)

Aquino unveils Cardinal Sin monument

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the important elements that led to the peaceful and bloodless people power revolt 25 years ago in Edsa.

In addressing the participants after unveiling of the life-sized monument of Jaime Cardinal Sin at P. Burgos corner Bonifacio Drive in Manila on Friday morning, the President said that freedom can be attained peacefully through unity, prayers and love for others as exemplified by the late Catholic leader 25 years ago during the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled a regime of dictatorship.

“Mayroon po tayong mga kinikilalang bayani tulad ni Cardinal Sin, na ginamit ng Poong Maykapal para tayong lahat ay mabigyan ng diwa ng pagmamahal sa ating kapwa…rebolusyon at pagbabago nagmula sa pagmamahalan na nag-resulta ng mapayapang pagbabago,” the Chief Executive said.

President Aquino asked for the people’s help in battling poverty and other problems hounding the country at present through the same formula that Cardinal Sin upheld in the bloodless revolt.

“Gamitin po natin yan parehong pananaw dahil hindi pa po tapos ang laban… hanggang may gutom sa bayan natin, hanggang may mga walang katiyakan o walang pagkakataong umasenso, hindi pa ho tapos ang laban natin, pagtulungan po natin ito,” President Aquino said.

The Chief Executive also noted the relevant role Cardinal Sin played during the Edsa People Power 1. “Despite threats to his life and his people, the Catholic leader chose to devote his time and prayers to restore the peace and freedom of the country,” he said.

The Catholic Prelate called on the people to participate in the mass actions, not through violent means, but through faith in God, prayers, unity and love for others.

Before the unveiling of the Cardinal Sin monument, the President also led the wreath laying ceremonies at the adjacent monument of his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim assisted the President together with other national and local officials.

Cardinal Sin was known for his instrumental role in the People Power Revolution, which toppled the regime of Ferdinand Marcos and installed Corazon C. Aquino as the 11th Philippine president.

Sin was appointed archbishop of Manila in January 1974 and served at the archdiocese until 2003, or 17 years after the successful people power revolution. He was succeeded by Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales.

Two years after retiring as archbishop of Manila, he died of renal failure in 2005. He was 76.

Also in attendance during the event organized by the City of Manila include were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Mayor Alfredo Lim, cabinet officials, the Aquino sisters, religious leaders, and the clergy, as well as students from various schools, colleges and universities. (PCOO)

Bahrain travel ban up for review -- Aquino

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said he will have the ban on travel to Bahrain reviewed.

In a teleconference, a Filipino worker in Bahrain said that the Filipino community there was surprised that the ban included travel to Bahrain.

“We are okay here sir. There are no problems,” the OFW from Bahrain said.

“We are just concerned with the Filipinos safety there considering the recent developments in the Middle East but I’ll have that studied,” the President replied.

The teleconference with three OFWs, (one each from Hong Kong, Bahrain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) was held at the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority. It was part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1986 People Power Revolution and the government’s way of listening to the concerns and needs of the so-called modern-day heroes.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday urged Filipinos to postpone non-essential travels to Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.

The DFA also said it was studying whether to defer the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in those troubled countries.

The Aquino administration made the move in the wake of the unrest that recently toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and spread to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

At the POEA, the President unveiled the historical marker at the exact location where former President Corazon Aquino delivered her speech during the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

The President also visited the Jobs Fair where 28 employment agencies committed some 25,000 jobs both local and abroad. (PCOO)

Ochoa: Del Rosario is presidential adviser for international relations

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. clarified on Friday that former ambassador Albert F. Del Rosario had been appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III as presidential adviser for international relations and acting foreign secretary in concurrent capacity so he could immediately take over the post vacated by Secretary Alberto Romulo.

“The President administered Secretary Del Rosario’s oath of office as presidential adviser for international affairs to allow him to immediately take over the responsibilities of heading the Department of Foreign Affairs following the resignation of Sec. Romulo,” Ochoa told reporters at the sidelights of the unveiling of the statue of Cardinal Sin in Manila.

Ad interim appointments of Cabinet secretaries are prohibited when Congress is in session.

According to Ochoa, the President wanted to ensure a quick and seamless transition at the foreign affairs department in light of developments in Libya.

The Executive Secretary added that Del Rosario was chosen for his experience as former ambassador and his sterling record in public service.

Del Rosario, who was head of the Philippine mission to the United States from 2001 to 2006, is a recipient of the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Datu; the EDSA II Presidential Heroes Award for fostering Philippine democracy; and the Philippine Army Award from for his accomplishments as chairman of the Makati Foundation for Education. (PCOO)

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gov't asks Taiwan to safeguard welfare of Filipino workers

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s private emissary to Taiwan, former Senator Mar Roxas, said he made a strong pitch to senior Taiwan officials led by its President Ma Ying-jeou on Tuesday (Feb.22) to safeguard the welfare of Filipino workers despite the strain brought by the deportation to China of 14 Taiwanese nationals by Philippine courts.

Roxas told Palace reporters that Taiwan considers the deportation to China of the 14 Taiwanese nationals charged by Philippine courts as unjustifiable. “They demanded from the ministerial level to the President an apology which we did not give,” Roxas said.

“We expressed deep regrets for the damaged and hurt feelings this has caused the people of Taiwan but we also conveyed the Filipino people’s sincere desire to ease the strain caused on Philippine- Taiwan relations. We assured the Taiwanese that there was never any intention on the Philippine side to put at risk the longstanding good relations between the two sides,” Roxas said.

He reported on the extensive meetings—one at the foreign ministry level (headed by Foreign Minister Timothy Yang) which lasted for 11 hours last Monday and then with President Ma for one hour on Tuesday—but “at every instance we forwarded the concerns of the Philippines regarding overseas Filipino workers already in Taiwan and those who were scheduled to go to Taiwan which could be put on hold by this controversy.”

Roxas said the Philippines expressed “openness to establishing a mechanism of mutual assistance in dealing with transnational crimes and the feasibility of beginning negotiations for closer economic ties possibly through economic partnership agreements, to which Taiwan expressed receptivity and openness.

Roxas maintained that Philippine relations with Taiwan have not worsened as there are communication links and initiatives in place which are being considered to “repair the damage from this regrettable incident and for friendly relations to move forward.”

Accompanying Roxas in Taiwan were Manila Economic Cooperation Office (MECO) Chairman Amadeo Perez Jr., Ambassador Tony Basilio and other MECO board members. (PCOO)

Aquino orders evacuation of Pinoys in Libya

President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered concerned agencies to prepare for the evacuation of Filipinos in Libya in case the situation in the northern African country deteriorates.

In a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said the President has instructed all relevant agencies to use all resources, infrastructure and logistics to undertake evacuation in case the need arises.

The President, according to Conejos, has instructed “not to leave anybody behind.”

Conejos said the President’s directive was to put in place the comprehensive plan on Tuesday, explore sea, land and air routes out of Libya and be ready with such modalities in case the need arises.

“All resources of government in anticipation of evacuation should be put at the disposal of this operation including the commission of special flights to bring home the OFWS there,” he said, quoting the President.

Talks are ongoing with Philippine Airlines and Qatar Airways to undertake the special flights.

“In planning we always prepare for the worst scenario,” he stressed adding that the government hopes for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Libya.

The final plan to execute, according to him will depend on actual developments on the ground.

Conejos also said that 24-hour crisis management teams in Tripoli and at the Department of Foreign Affairs are continuously monitoring the situation on the ground.

The DFA has advised the 26,000 Filipinos in Libya, who are mostly professionals and skilled workers to stay in safe places.

As a result of the latest development, the DFA has raised the alert level to 3 which means that any one can avail of voluntary repatriation.

Other instructions included: If you are employed with a company, stay with your company and if your company implements an evacuation plan go with your company; If you are not in that situation, stay where you are safe; and if you feel you are not safe, then contact the embassy and the embassy will tell you where to go, If you are unable to contact the embassy, go to the nearest relocation site.

Conejos said that in the event it is safe to move around Libya, the government will execute an evacuation for Filipinos there not taken cared of by their employers.

He said the government had asked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help arrange seats for Filipinos wishing to leave Libya.

“We cannot do it alone. We hope the IOM will help us arrange for us to swiftly air transport people out of Libya,” Conejos said.

However, he said that the President‘s directive was clear---to “implement the plan on our own. (PCOO)

People empowerment true spirit of EDSA '86 -- Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday stressed that the true spirit of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution is people empowerment which is very much alive in the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (linked arms against poverty)-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services.

In his message at the two-day “People-Powered Development,” a Local Government Unit (LGU) forum on integrating community-driven development in local governance practice at the Heroes Hall of Malacañang, the President, speaking in Pilipino, recognized the contribution of local government officials and people’s groups in empowering the people and restoring democracy.

According to the Chief Executive, this democracy is “Demokrasya mula sa kurapsyon at kalayaan mula sa kahirapan. Ito ang kahulugan ng people power. Ito ang pamana ng Edsa (Democracy from corruption and freedom from poverty. This is the legacy of EDSA).

He said his mother, the former President Corazon Aquino has said that the true meaning of people power has a different face--- not the millions of Filipinos marching through EDSA nor the placards bearing former Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.’s face nor the nuns holding rosaries but rather preparedness-- preparedness to fight corruption and preparedness to fight poverty.

“And this is the kind of preparedness these mayors from different municipalities sharing their knowledge and experiences in uplifting the lives of the poor through KALAHI-CIDSS,” he said.

The 33 mayors implementing KALAHI-CIDSS projects in their respective municipalities received commendation from the President for their good performance.

“Thank you to these leaders. I will not have second thoughts in calling you heroes if you are indeed government’s partner in fighting corruption by not stealing from government coffers and by fighting poverty as well through your pro-poor projects,” he said.

The President stressed that the mayors are part of the modern revolution to eradicate poverty by implementing the community- driven development approach in their communities which recognizes the community as not just recipients but as partners in local development.

“You are part of government’s war against corruption and poverty. I salute you,” the President adding that the united efforts and effective decisions of all local executives and the people can have a multiplier effect in the government’s war against hunger and poverty.

“Sa madaling salita binabahagi niyo hindi sa kabarangay lamang, umaabot ito sa mas maraming Pilipino,” the President said.

“Let us now be proactive instead of reactive. If we are one in working for the good of many, we will all be one in achieving success,” he said. (PCOO)

Aquino orders study of KALAHI as a national program

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday instructed the Cabinet cluster on human development for poverty reduction to study the resolution submitted by mayors, people’s groups and non-government organizations involved in the implementation of KALAHI-CIDSS-CDD projects urging the national government to adopt the KALAHI-CIDSS-CDD strategy as a national program.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman, in an interview after the “People- Powered Development” forum in Malacanang, said the President wanted the details of the program so the national government can adopt it as a national strategy for all government agencies in implementing their projects.

“Ang sabi niya sa akin, in principle, wala naman siyang nakikitang problema, kailangan naming detalyehin ang ibig sabihin nito kung gagawing national strategy. So, kailangan aming mag-translate into a more detailed program para sa pambansang pamahalalan na implementasyon (The President said in principle, he does not see any problem but he wants the strategy to be detailed for it to be adopted as a national strategy),” Soliman said.

Soliman added that the KALAHI-CIDSS strategy of involving the community in the implementation of pro-poor projects can be adopted by government agencies.

“If the community is involved in the project, we can expect them to help in the sustenance and maintenance of the said project because they were part of the decision-making and in the implementation of the projects,” she said.

In the proposed resolution, the KALAHI-CIDSS Mayors’ Forum said that the KALAHI-CIDSS Community-Driven Development strategy, which was implemented since 2003 through community participation in poverty reduction and good local governance activities, is found to be effective in achieving local service delivery outcomes and best practices in good governance.

It further said that the KALAHI-CIDSS-CDD strategy complements national government’s efforts to converge programs and resources intended to support poverty reduction initiatives at the local level.

KALAHI-CIDSS covers 42 provinces,200 municipalities and 4,583 barangays. Some 5,326 community projects have been built benefiting 1,197,772 households since 2003.

This year, KALAHI-CIDSS will scale up in 374 municipalities through additional funding from the World bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant. (PCOO)

Ochoa tells agencies to set up special windows for Taiwan-bound OFWs

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. has directed five agencies dealing with the requirements for the processing of visa of Filipino workers bound for Taiwan to set up special windows to facilitate their documents faster.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Manila had previously announced that Taiwan-bound Filipinos would have to submit additional documents as a pre-requisite for the issuance of work visa, but Ochoa said the creation of special lanes would help ease the impact of the new requirements imposed on Filipino workers.

“Our priority here is the welfare of our citizens who have already obtained employment in Taiwan, but are now having difficulty getting their visas to Taiwan because of the new requirements issued by TECO,” Ochoa said.

In a memorandum dated February 14, Ochoa ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and National Statistics Office (NSO) to establish in their respective offices special lanes dedicated to the processing and authentication or issuance of documents.

In a separate letter, the Executive Secretary also asked the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to fast track the issuance of identification cards.

According to Ochoa, the SSS has already opened courtesy lanes in its offices and has started issuing documents certifying that the Taiwan-bound OFW is a member of SSS and has applied for the biometric identification card pending the production, supply and actual delivery of the SSS Biometric ID.

Under the new guidelines issued by the economic and cultural office of Taipei, workers seeking deployment to Taiwan must submit DFA- and TECO-authenticated birth certificate and NBI clearance, as well as the original and photocopies of ID cards issued by the SSS, Philhealth and COMELEC. (PCOO)